6 ways anger is ruining your health
Sometimes anger can be good for you if it’s addressed quickly and expressed in a healthy way. In fact, anger may help some people think more rationally.
Excessive anger also puts your physical wellbeing at risk. In the short term, anger can cause headaches, migraines, chest pains, aches and more.
However, unhealthy episodes of anger — when you hold it in for long periods of time, turn it inward, or explode in rage — can wreak havoc on your body. If you’re prone to losing your temper, here are six important reasons to stay calm.
1. It weakens your immune system
If you’re mad all the time, you might just find yourself feeling sick more often. In one study, Harvard University scientists found that in healthy people, simply recalling an angry experience from their past caused a six-hour dip in levels of the antibody immunoglobulin A, the cells’ first line of defense against infection.
If you’re someone who’s habitually angry, protect your immune system by turning to a few effective coping strategies. Assertive communication, effective problem solving, using humor, or restructuring your thoughts to get away from that black-and-white, all-or-nothing thinking — those are all good ways to cope. But you’ve got to start by calming down.
2. Anger can shorten your life
Is it really true that happy people live longer? “Stress is very tightly linked to general health. If you’re stressed and angry, you’ll shorten your lifespan. A study done over a 17-year period found that couples who hold in their anger have a shorter life span than those who readily say when they’re mad.
If you’re not someone who’s comfortable showing negative emotions, then work with a therapist or practice on your own to be more expressive. Learning to express anger in an appropriate way is actually a healthy use of anger. If someone infringes on your rights, you need to tell them. Directly tell people what you’re mad about, and what you need.
3. Hostility can hurt your lungs
Not a smoker? You could still be hurting your lungs if you’re a perpetually angry, hostile person. Scientists studied 670 men over eight years using a hostility scale scoring method to measure anger levels and assessed any changes in the men’s lung function.
The men with the highest hostility ratings had significantly worse lung capacity, which increased their risk of respiratory problems. The researchers theorized that an uptick in stress hormones, which are associated with feelings of anger, creates inflammation in the airways.
4. Anger is also linked to depression
Numerous studies have linked depression with aggression and angry outbursts, especially in men. In depression, passive anger — where you ruminate about it but never take action — is common. The number one piece of advice for someone struggling with depression mixed with anger is to get busy and stop thinking so much.
Any activity which fully absorbs you is a good cure for anger, such as golf, needlepoint, biking. These tend to fill our minds completely and pull our focus toward the present moment, and there’s just no room left for anger to stir when you’ve got that going.
5. Anger ups your stroke risk
If you’re prone to lashing out, beware. One study found there was three times higher risk of having a stroke from a blood clot to the brain or bleeding within the brain during the two hours after an angry outburst. For people with an aneurysm in one of the brain’s arteries, there was six times higher risk of rupturing this aneurysm following an angry outburst.
Some good news: you can learn to control those angry explosions. To move into positive coping, you need to first identify what your triggers are, and then figure out how to change your response. Instead of losing your temper, do some deep breathing. Use assertive communication skills. You might even need to change your environment by getting up and walking away.
6. An angry outburst puts your heart at great risk
Most physically damaging is anger’s effect on your cardiac health. In the two hours after an angry outburst, the chance of having a heart attack doubles.
Repressed anger — where you express it indirectly or go to great lengths to control it — is associated with heart disease. In fact, one study found that people with anger proneness as a personality trait were at twice the risk of coronary disease than their less angry peers.
To protect your ticker, identify and address your feelings before you lose control.
Constructive anger — the kind where you speak up directly to the person you are angry with and deal with the frustration in a problem-solving manner — is not associated with heart disease and is actually a very normal, healthy emotion.